Jets receiver Elijah Moore 'attacking' different role with new attitude

Second-year Jets receiver Elijah Moore says he's fine with any role because he just wants to win. Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- This has been a weird season for New York Jets wide receiver Elijah Moore.

It started decently enough, but his production dropped when quarterback Zach Wilson returned to the lineup in Week 4. Frustrated, Moore requested a trade in the middle of a winning streak, resulting in a one-game benching. Since then, he has been invisible.

Wait, it gets stranger.

Saying they want to create more opportunities for Moore, the Jets switched him to the slot after more than a year of telling everyone his best position is on the outside.

It's hard not to raise an eyebrow, considering the twists and turns and his disappearance in the offense. But one thing seems clear: Moore is a good player, and good players should be utilized to the max, especially in a playoff run. The Jets (6-3) will move into first place in the AFC East if they beat the New England Patriots (5-4) on Sunday at Gillette Stadium (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

"He’s not making an official move to the slot, there's just a lot more opportunities in the slot," coach Robert Saleh said. "So (we're) just trying to utilize him to put him in the best positions to be successful."

Unofficial, official ... it's just semantics. The point is, Moore now is working primarily as an inside receiver, having switched spots with rookie Garrett Wilson. It started two games ago, but it really showed up in the last game -- the upset victory over the Buffalo Bills. He spent more time in the slot (15 snaps) than outside (nine).

Moore was an uber-productive slot receiver at Ole Miss, but the Jets had a different vision for him upon drafting him in the 2021 second round. Despite his smallish size (5-foot-10), they stamped him as an outside receiver. He finished with 43 catches, 538 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games -- a promising rookie year -- but he wasn't able maintain that into this season and saw his role shrink.

Now he has a chance to reinvent himself in a different position.

"I feel good about it," he told ESPN. "I'm attacking it. It's another opportunity, another way to show my talents. All I want to do is win."

Saleh said there were a few factors in the decision, most notably Wilson's emergence on the outside (14 catches for 207 yards in two games) and Moore's slot-friendly skill set. It's a place in the formation where he "can utilize his shiftiness and his separation and his route-running ability," Saleh said.

It sounds like this was the byproduct of the conversations they had in the aftermath of Moore's trade request, which occurred Oct. 20.

"So, yeah, all those conversations happened, (but) it wasn’t kind of a ‘Hey, we’ll do this for you,’" Saleh said. "It’s just more let’s try to find ways to help him get in a groove on gameday, because like I’ve said, all he wants to do is help the football team."

Throwing him the ball would help. He has had only one target in the last three games, and that was a pass that was deflected at the line. Moore is too good to be ignored; there are always ways to get a receiver involved. Against the Bills, it didn't seem like he was the first read on any of his pass routes.

"I don't know why," he said, commenting on his lack of usage. "I'm not focusing on that. I'm just focused on what I can do for this game. The past is the past."

But no catches in three games?

"I don't call the plays," he said.

Moore has only 16 receptions, which ranks sixth on the team. This isn't how he imagined his second season -- or any season, for that matter. His attitude is positive, he insisted. Always has been.

But what about the trade request?

"You guys aren't around me all the time," he said. "You guys only see me when I'm frustrated."

Too often in a weird year.